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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Little Secrets (2002)

"Can you keep a secret?"
- Tagline

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 03, 2003

Stars: Evan Rachel Wood
Other Stars: Michael Angarano, David Gallagher, Vivica A. Fox
Director: Blair Treu

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements
Run Time: 01h:38m:00s
Release Date: February 04, 2003
UPC: 043396080836
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BB-B- C

DVD Review

It's rare these days to find a film that is genuinely "fun for the whole family." Even Disney, the last bastion of wholesome entertainment, has taken to ratcheting up the adult humor in their movies, peppering them with double entendres and inappropriate gags (witness the sex hotline scandal surrounding The Santa Clause, or some of the blue humor in The Kid). Even their cartoons are loaded with crude bodily humor or violence (the nevertheless charming Lilo and Stitch had plenty of both). It's not that I find such content offensive, I simply wonder why Hollywood decided that the G-rated film didn't necessarily need to be family friendly. Perhaps because those movies won't find a lot of support at the box-office? Little Secrets certainly didn't. Despite a cast full of popular teen stars, including Evan Wood from Once and Again and David Gallagher from Seventh Heaven, and strong notices from critics, the film received only a cursory release.

The story is certainly pleasant enough. Fourteen-year-old Emily (Wood) is her town's "secret keeper." Impatient neighborhood kids line up in front of her booth, waiting impatiently to pay her 50 cents to listen to their deepest, darkest secrets. There's the little girl who has hidden a kitten in her room, or the boy who is clandestinely digging a hole to China. Emily is popular because she's never spoiled a secret, and for these refreshingly untroubled youths, keeping a secret is their biggest worry in life. All of the problems in Little Secrets are as simple and easily solved, and it's nice to watch a movie where the kids aren't dealing with a magical situation, or weighty adult issues. These are kid problems that kids in the audience can easily sympathize with, without having to worry about getting mom and dad's help to solve them.

Emily is a violinist, and her only wish is to make it into the town's symphony orchestra (I feel deprived; my small town had no such thing). She's distracted, though, because all of her friends are away at camp and having fun without her. Things are looking up when she meets the new kid in town, Philip (Michael Angarano, from Will and Grace), and she ends up spilling her secrets to him, which creates problems when she meets his dreamy older brother David (Gallagher).

There's nothing revolutionary, or even especially thought provoking, in Little Secrets, even when the film tackles the Big Secret, adoption. But even these big problems are quickly and easily solved, and none of the characters are allowed to be unhappy for too long. I suppose you could fault the movie for making life seem so carefree and oversimplified, but kids grow up too fast these days as it is. If a movie like this keeps them naïve for a little bit longer, I'm all for it.

Director Blair True has crafted an endlessly sunny, cheery film, and has proven himself adept at handling child actors. The three experienced leads are very good, of course, as all have years of TV experience behind them, but the cast of supporting youngsters is surprisingly natural, showing none of the stiff mannerisms of the typical towheaded Hollywood child star. And Jessica Barondes (who worked with True in the past on the similarly inoffensive Wish Upon a Star) gives her characters some depth even as they deal with their simple problems. Little Secrets isn't especially well made, but it's a nice, thoughtful family film, one that doesn't insult the intelligence of parents or kids.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Columbia Tri-Star offers Little Secrets in both a full frame and a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer; both are of comparable quality. The natural color palette translates well enough, though there is some occasional blooming in the brighter hues. Textures and detail are merely decent, with the image as a whole looking a bit soft. Black level is likewise average, and darker scenes look a bit grainy. Aliasing is a minor problem, as is some slight edge enhancement, but overall, it's an adequate transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Portuguese, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track does little to enhance this largely dialogue-based film. Speech comes across nice and clear, anchored in the center channel. The score spreads across the mains and is occasionally enhanced by the surrounds. Sound effects aren't really an issue.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Stuart Little 2, Kermit's Swamp Years
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Blair Treu, writer Jessica Barondes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Blooper Reel
Extras Review: Little Secrets comes packaged as a two-disc set, though the second disc is simply a CD of the instrumental score. It's not a bad piece of work, but I can't imagine the targeted family audience would have much interest in it.

Otherwise, the feature disc includes some worthwhile goodies, including an enthusiastic commentary from director and writer. The two clearly have a lot of affection for their movie, and if the "love-fest" style of commentary bothers you, you might want to give this one a pass. Otherwise, they share production anecdotes and in particular like to talk about technical difficulties of the shoot, while talks about the satisfaction of seeing the script she wrote filmed with no major changes from the studio or additional writers.

A four-minute blooper reel provides a few smiles—when the kids blow a take, there is generally much less swearing involved. The brief promotional featurette isn't as much fun, as it's your basic extended trailer posing as a "making-of." Rounding out the disc is a trailer for the feature and spots for Stuart Little 2 and Kermit's Swamp Years.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Little Secrets is a perfectly pleasant, sunny family film. The MPAA has rated it PG for "thematic elements," but I can't imagine a parent objecting to any of the content. With values and characters straight out of a 1950s sit-com and a charming cast of "safe" teen stars, it should make a good family night rental.

 


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